Wow. After a six-month (grad school-induced) hiatus, I had the privilege of hosting a NextGen’s August meeting on Friday. I was impressed with the range of nonprofit folks who showed up, what they brought to the table, and at the retrospective work of the informal group.
What’s NextGen? Launched in May 2008 after research by the Building Movement Project resonated with my personal experience working in the nonprofit sector, NextGen has realized its goal. It was created as a space for young nonprofit professionals to meet, seek and provide support to each other – outside their organizations, to broaden their horizons. And it is working.
One participant pulled me aside and said,
“NextGen is the first place I got it. I understand what it means to be a nonprofit now. I never realized until I sat down with all of you what all the pieces look like. In my agency I have one job and no idea what the people over there actually do. Here, I learn from all the perspectives.”
Over the last two years the group of people who participate in NextGen has grown – outside of the Paul Clarke Nonprofit Resource Center, now as an affiliate of NINA. The monthly lunch meetings hover around 15 folks, but we continue to attract newcomers – and hear from founding members who attend that the place at the table with NextGen has changed them in a number of tangible – and subtle ways.
The tangible results? We have mentors. Many NextGeners met NINA mentors last year and continue to maintain mutual mentorship relationships. We didn’t track the numbers this round because we chose to intentionally be informal and let good things happen organically. They did. And many folks continue to meet on their own, in fact, one pair was meeting right after our Friday meeting.
We’ve rock climbed with seasoned nonprofit professionals. Don’t underestimate how powerful this experience was. And be vocal if you want to see it happen again.
We’ve been invited to sit at tables where we’ve never been before. Our Executive Committee (Andrew Hoffman, Jennifer Renner, Andy Welfle) have presented on Social Networking and Generational Diversity to local funders and nonprofit professionals.
And we’re learning. We’re learning so much about our community, each other and ourselves. We’re learning leadership by experiencing it, witnessing it and watching it change people. We’re being taught by our community’s finest – who are so willing to share.
I was nervous about today, wondering, “What is my role with NextGen any more? Where are they now?” I had such visions and passion about the group and then, I had to hand over the reins – for myself and to give the group flight. Turns out, they didn’t need me to cheer lead and coax. They got this. They have it down. The established members have internalized the importance of sharing the table and the new people? They feel it. This is their space to ask, to share, to belong.
The secret recipe? Doesn’t exist. It’s perfectly natural and somehow fresh every time. Informal, open conversation and sharing makes us better at our work, in our community and as people.
Are you a young nonprofit professional? Well, then you’re NextGen. Pull up a chair. (And watch the blog for meeting updates)
(your Princess MLS Pants- Yes, that’s a tiara. I just finished grad school for library science, allow me this laugh;)